President Chuck Norris, of Sovereign Texas?


Creative Commons License photo credit: cloune

Now this is just all sorts of awesomeness not because it is likely to happen (I’m skeptical), but because it puts pressure on the Feds to behave. Apparently, Chuck “When I do a push-up I push the world down” Norris quipped recently on The Glenn Beck show that he may run for President of Texas. Even said in jest, something like this has to have been contemplated or at least joked about by Chuck Norris before in order for it to just sorta come out on national television. And based on Chuck’s recent write-up (the link), he’s clearly thought a great deal about the notion of Texas reasserting itself as a sovereign nation.

Time to move to Texas? I hear Austin is a great place to live.

Chuck is far too religiously minded for comfort, but then again, so is Ron Paul (and mind you it gave me similar pause there, as well). I’m far more worried about acolytes of the State than conservative Christians these days though. It’s also encouraging to hear someone mainstream (As Patri noted) seriously discuss the notion of secession. As I see it, it’d only take one state to break the Union before others would follow. The “United” States is so overrated — why don’t more people see that?

Here’s would-be President Norris:

When I appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio show, he told me that someone had asked him, “Do you really believe that there is going to be trouble in the future?” And he answered, “If this country starts to spiral out of control and Mexico melts down or whatever, if it really starts to spiral out of control, before America allows a country to become a totalitarian country (which it would have under I think the Republicans as well in this situation; they were taking us to the same place, just slower), Americans won’t stand for it. There will be parts of the country that will rise up.” Then Glenn asked me and his listening audience, “And where’s that going to come from?” He answered his own question, “Texas, it’s going to come from Texas. Do you agree with that Chuck?” I replied, “Oh yeah!” Definitely.

It was these types of thoughts that led me to utter the tongue-n-cheek frustration on Glenn Beck’s radio show, “I may run for president of Texas!”

I’m not saying that other states won’t muster the gumption to stand and secede, but Texas has the history to prove it. As most know, Texas was its own country before it joined the Union as its 28th state. From 1836 to 1846, Texas was its own Republic. Washington-on-the-Brazos (river) served as our Philadelphia, Pa. It was there, on March 2, 1836, where a band of patriots forged the Texas Declaration of Independence. (We just celebrated these dates last week.)

On March 1, 1845, then-President John Tyler signed a congressional bill annexing the Republic of Texas. Though the annexation resolution never explicitly granted Texas the right to secede from the Union (as is often reported), many (including me) hold that it is implied by its unique autonomy and history, as well as the unusual provision in the resolution that gave Texas the right to divide into as many as five states. Both the original (1836) and the current (1876) Texas Constitutions also declare that “All political power is inherent in the people. … they have at all times the inalienable right to alter their government in such manner as they might think proper.”

Anyone who has been around Texas for any length of time knows exactly what we’d do if the going got rough in America. Let there be no doubt about that. As Sam Houston once said, “Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.”

By the way, I actually didn’t know the Texas Republic history. I probably learned it in some social studies class but subsequently forgot all about it. Neat.

Bacteria, saliva, and overall health…ref=mpstoryview

First, Seth Roberts blogs on Oral Health, Heart Disease, and Fermented Foods here:

A relevant snippet:

Epidemiologic data have shown a statistical association between periodontal disease and coronary heart disease and stroke. In a meta-analysis, the odds ratio increase for CVD in persons with periodontal disease was almost 20%. Poor oral health also seems to be associated with all-cause mortality.

Emphasis added. As I blogged earlier, during my last trip to the dentist I was told my gums were in great shape, better than the previous visit — and the only intentional change since the previous visit was a huge increase (a factor of 50?) in how much fermented food I eat. So perhaps fermented foods improve oral health. A reason to suspect that fermented foods reduce heart disease is that Eskimos, with very low rates of heart disease, eat lots of fermented food. If both these ideas are true — fermented foods improve gum health and reduce heart disease — it would explain the observed correlation between gum disease and heart disease. …

The shift to a diet high in sugar and refined flours has usually happened at the same time as a shift away from traditional diets. In other words, the increase in sugar and flour wasn’t the only change. I suspect there was usually a great reduction in fermented foods at the same time. Maybe the reduction in fermented foods caused the trouble rather than the increase in sugar and flour. The reduction in fermented foods is almost always ignored – for example, by Weston Price and John Yudkin (author of Sweet and Dangerous).

Cross-posting here a comment I made on Seth Robert’s blog post:

I saw a potentially relevant article on saliva and bacteria in CNN recently:

A quote:

Since people have different eating habits in different places, you might think an American’s saliva might look a lot different from, say, a South African’s. But a new study published in the journal Genome Research finds that bacteria in saliva may not be as related to environment and diet as you might think.

In fact, researchers found that the human salivary microbiome — that is, the community of bacteria in saliva — does not vary greatly between different geographic locations. That means your saliva is just as different from your neighbor’s as someone’s on the other side of the planet.

Americans in particular have a lot of amylase in their saliva because their diets are full of starch: chips, rice and baked potatoes. But the Pygmies of central Africa, for example, eat mostly game animals, honey and fruit. They have relatively little amylase in their saliva.

Dominy and colleagues found these differences at the genetic level, meaning natural selection has favored large quantities of amylase in populations with starchy diets.

But there is also evidence that amylase levels can rise and fall within an individual’s lifetime. A study on college students in Ghana, who typically eat a lot of meat at the university, found that students who had grown up eating traditional starchy Ghanaian home-cooked meals had lower levels of amylase after attending the school.

Finally, trying to get Stephan of WholeHealthSource hooked up with Seth Roberts as I’m willing to bet there might be some synergies in their research and experimentation on fermentation (particularly as examining the changing diets a la Weston Price’s research).

(H/T Nathan)

Cory Doctorow: Writing in the Age of Distraction


Originally furl’ed here

Some great advice on avoiding distractions while writing. The quoted bit is just one of Doctorow’s gems (One I find particularly apt), but the rest is worth reading, as well.

Realtime communications tools are deadly The biggest impediment to concentration is your computer’s ecosystem of interruption technologies: IM, email alerts, RSS alerts, Skype rings, etc. Anything that requires you to wait for a response, even subconsciously, occupies your attention. Anything that leaps up on your screen to announce something new, occupies your attention. The more you can train your friends and family to use email, message boards, and similar technologies that allow you to save up your conversation for planned sessions instead of demanding your attention right now helps you carve out your 20 minutes. By all means, schedule a chat — voice, text, or video — when it’s needed, but leaving your IM running is like sitting down to work after hanging a giant “DISTRACT ME” sign over your desk, one that shines brightly enough to be seen by the entire world.

Seth Godin’s Advice on Writing a Book (Part 2)


Below is Part 2 of Seth Godin’s advice on writing a book and publicizing your ideas, originally blogged in 2006, below are the bits of advice I found most insightful (Go here to see Part 1 of Seth Godin’s advice on authoring a book). The numbers may skip as I’m not quoting all 19 tips. Finally, tip 19 clearly has wider implications than merely writing a book. Expect a post on why you should blog soon!

2. The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later. …

4. Understand that a non-fiction book is a souvenir, just a vessel for the ideas themselves. You don’t want the ideas to get stuck in the book… you want them to spread. Which means that you shouldn’t hoard the idea! The more you give away, the better you will do. …

12. Blog mentions . . . matter a lot. …

14. Consider the free PDF alternative. Some have gotten millions of downloads. No hassles, no time wasted, no trying to make a living on it. All the joy, in other words, without debating whether you should quit your day job (you shouldn’t!) …

19. Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It pays off intellectually. It clarifies your thinking. It builds credibility. It is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority. You should write one.

(H/T Patri)

Seth Godin’s Advice on Writing a Book (Part 1)


Seth Godin is a marketing guru who’s released a number of books — none of which I’ve had a chance to read. Regardless, Godin seems to have some good ideas upon which I continue to stumble, like two blog posts he wrote in 2005 and 2006 prescribing advice on authoring a book. Below are selected snippets from the 2005 post. I’ve also linked down my favorite parts of the 2006 advice.

1. Please understand that book publishing is an organized hobby, not a business.

The return on equity and return on time for authors and for publishers is horrendous. If you’re doing it for the money, you’re going to be disappointed. . . .

3. There is no such thing as effective book promotion by a book publisher. . . .

Here’s the thing: publishing a book is really nothing but a socially acceptable opportunity to promote yourself and your ideas far and wide and often.

If you don’t promote it, no one will. . . .

4. Books cost money and require the user to read them for the idea to spread.

Obvious, sure, but real problems. Real problems because the cost of a book introduces friction to your idea. It makes the idea spread much much more slowly than an online meme because in order for it to spread, someone has to buy it. Add to that the growing (and sad) fact that people hate to read. . . .

So, what’s my best advice?

Build an asset. Large numbers of influential people who read your blog or read your emails or watch your TV show or love your restaurant or or or…

Then, put your idea into a format where it will spread fast. That could be an ebook (a free one) or a pamphlet . . .

Then, if your idea catches on, you can sell the souvenir edition. The book. The thing people keep on their shelf or lend out or get from the library. Books are wonderful (I own too many!) but they’re not necessarily the best vessel for spreading your idea.

(H/T Patri)

Blockquote Blogging (Thoughts on using blockquotes in your writing)

— Below is an email I sent to a fellow blogger regarding the use of blockquoted material in blog posts. The self-referenced links were added after the fact. Any feedback on my critique is welcome! —

Hey! I’ve been reading and observing your blog posts and your commentary continues to be spot-on and both well-written and fun to read. Having said that and fully realizing that what I’m about to tell you is more a guideline than any kind of bright line rule, I suggest you work on reducing the blockquot-iness (made word that up) of your posts whenever possible. There are multiple reasons for this suggestion.

For one, blog readers have a tendency to gloss over large swathes of blockquoted material. From a big picture perspective, readers [come] to your site to read what you have to say about something. To the extent that you can summarize key points rather than blockquote, you are adding the value and time-savings that readers crave. As you’ll frequently see, most bloggers intuitively realize this fact as they will frequently bolden the major quotes within the blockquote, [which is really a means of highlighting the key points and telling your readers to skip the rest!].

Of course, blockquotes are a way to give credit and save time for the blogger as they usually include enough source material to cover key points — no reason to reinvent the wheel. But assuming you are giving proper source credit, I’d suggest making a conscious effort to nail the important points early on in a post, reduce blockquotes generally, and potentially push blockquotes to the bottom of posts whenever possible. A basic structure of such a post might be:

  1. Introduction
  2. Key points
  3. Conclusion
  4. Source material (blockquote)

Obviously the above structure can’t always be put into play.

A further reason to reduce blockquotes is that they act as subtle visual queues that tell a reader that the real meat of your post is actually somewhere else, as indicated by the blockquotes. Blockquotes can function to reduce your perceived authority.

Finally, one logistical problem of abundant blockquotes is that they can severely break up the flow of your writing. This is because blockquotes necessarily contain multiple sentences written by someone else in a different style than your own. The worst offender of this practice of “blockquote blogging” is Michael “Mish” Shedlock. I went hunting for an example and needed look no further than his latest post: “In Search of Common Sense” — this is Mish’s style and maybe some people really like it. I find it frustrating to read even as I often immensely enjoy Mish’s commentary. My reaction when I see stuff like that is basic: my eyes glaze [over] and I just don’t read it, or best case, I skim for the conclusion and then determine if I need to backtrack into the quoted material.

All of the above advice is based on having both blogged and kept up with blogs now for nearly five years — the last two of which have required spending hours a day reading and managing blog content. From this experience I’ve drawn a number of conclusions about best-practices of blogging, the purpose blogging serves, and what makes a compelling blog work.

Some of my conclusions are unavoidably a biased effect of keeping up with nearly 70 websites daily (via Google Reader). I have to filter through this content to discern the best, most original, and insightful material from a large pool of commentary and news. Heavily blockquoted blog posts routinely get skimmed or skipped in my feed aggregator. More importantly, it is my experience that the best blogs out there speak from authority and minimize blockquotes to the extent possible.

As I said, this is general advice and my own style of blogging is assuredly faulty in any number of ways. I’d be eager to hear your thoughts and feedback, and since it’s your blog, you have the right to reject all of the above as nonsense and carry on doing things your way!

Your home garden may soon come under Federal Regulation…es-small-farms/

Looks like big business is making another power grab via lobbying government officials to pass onerous laws that would shut down smaller businesses, and may be so poorly written and loosely defined that your regular gardener would fall under purveyance of the Feds.

Just look at this definition of a “Food Production Facility” from the bill (HR 875):

(14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

Note that what qualifies as a farm is not defined. I’m skeptical about this bill for two reasons:

  1. In an economic crisis like now, that the government would actively try and stifle growing your own produce seems beyond absurd. However, I have almost no faith in government being reasonable, rational, or competent enough to stop special interests from ridiculously offesnive power grabs such as this.
  2. A law that stopped home gardening could cause revolt. Americans do not want to be told what they can do on their own land. When that is growing illegal drugs like marijuana, most Americans will bend to puritanical beliefs. But when we’re talking about growing tomatoes? That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

The more bills I see that go before Congress, the more my fundamental distrust and conclusion of rampant government corruption is confirmed. For further reading, see HR 600 which would put back into practice the sort of borrowing practices that led to the subprime debacle, housing boom, and housing bust.

This bill is designed to allow corporations, with the help of their hired government guns, to force small competitors (you and me) out of business. This is as evil as it gets, folks. Since the dawn of man we have hunted and farmed our own food——it’s second nature. To be stripped of the most fundamental act of survival is equivalent to the kind of mass enslavement you only read about in history books, like the kind under Pharaohs in ancient Egypt.

Lurking within the maze of technical lawyer-like jargon, the bill places wildly restrictive regulatory incumbrances on the average vegetable growing Joe-The-Plumber, small organic farmer, or anyone for that matter who may one day decide to grow a small garden. The bill would require anyone associated with growing, storing, transporting or processing food to be subject to inspections by federal agents of their property and all records related to food production; you would be required to conduct specials tests, maintain samples and records, and allow government officials to mandate the use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers, specific types of nutrients, packaging, and temperature controls. Violation of any of these provisions would subject the offender to property seizure, imprisonment and fines up to $1,000,000. The implementation of these bogus regulations are designed to be so cost and time prohibitive, no one would bother to grow their own food or risk being jailed and fined for participating in a black market.

(H/T Implode)

Use a Feed Aggregator [Grind Skills]

RSS Logo Drawn In The Sand
Creative Commons License photo credit: kiewic

New to Grind Skills? See this post first.

Grind Skill Brief — If you regularly visit blogs, news portals, or other dynamic websites (This means you), you need to be using some form of feed aggregator to consolidate the content of all your favorite sites into one, manageable place. If you aren’t already doing this, you are wasting time and energy and simultaneously failing to keep up with the topics and ideas that interest you most. Even worse, you’re missing out on powerful means of learning knew ideas and knowledge. If you need a feed aggregator, Google Reader is free and incredibly easy to set up for existing Google (Gmail) account holders.

The Details — What is RSS / Atom? Simply put, they are two forms of XML coding websites use to syndicate content. Content syndication empowers Internet users to subscribe to a site through XML aggregating software — the aforementioned “feed aggregator” — without using clunky, cluttered email. Feed aggregators virtually eliminate the need to physically visit (As in, load in your Internet browser) your “must-read” websites. They check for the latest site updates on your behest, pull the entirety of content from whatever websites you want, and then dump all the newest, unread posts into an inbox-like format for your easy reading digestion.

By way of an example, there are nearly 70 websites to which I currently subscribe using Google Reader, my feed aggregator of choice. If I didn’t use a feed reader, I would have to try and remember all 70 sites I’m tracking and then visit every one of those sites numerous times per day to accomplish the same task that my feed aggregator has already accomplished every time I login. The Grind Skill angle should be obvious: a feed aggregator is technology makes you more efficient and effective at doing the things you want to do.

Google Reader — I am not an expert on all of the various feed aggregators out there and would be interested in hearing about any feed aggregators that readers have found particularly useful. I like Google Reader because it has an intuitive interface that allows you to search for feeds, categorize them into common groups, fluidly scan through the latest posts by site or category, tag content, search your feeds, email posts (this functionality taps your Gmail address book to auto fill email addresses), “star” content, and use hot keys to navigate around. You can even share posts with other Google Reader users with which you have had regular contact (More on this feature below). Because Google Reader is web-based, it requires no software and can even be accessed on your mobile device. If your browser supports Google Gears, you can even get setup to take your feeds offline for reading when you don’t have Internet access.

If you need to get setup on Google Reader go to and login with your Google/Gmail account. From there, click on the button at the top left that says “Add a subscription.” From there, you can search for sites by domain name, keyword, etc. and a list of possible matches will be returned. Alternatively for instantly adding subscriptions, if you see an RSS icon on a website, which typically looks like this symbol sans wings:

You can try it by right-clicking the linked icon above, copying the linked address, which is the Feedburner feed for all Justin Owings blogs, and paste that address into the “Add a subscription” dropbox and hit “Add.” Done!

Feed Aggregators Accelerate Learning — Beyond the immense time-savings you’ll realize from the feed aggregator grind skill, there is a less-obvious benefit, which is making you smarter: feed aggregators accelerate learning through focusing your curiosity while enabling you to take advantage of the work others’ put into reading their own feeds.

Curiosity is a precursor to learning. I am a curious cat, and my curiosity often leads to seemingly random pursuits of ideas and knowledge. These pursuits are exciting and of high interest to me, which is why I’m so likely to internalize and gain knowledge from them. However, just as my curiosity is unplanned and spontaneous, it is practically impossible to keep track of. A feed aggregator manages the human element, my forgetfulness and lack of focus, and “remembers” my interests for me. Even more impressive in the case of Google Reader, is that my aggregator suggests other feeds I might find worth reading by intuiting my interests from my existing subscriptions.

The other way a feed aggregator can accelerate learning may be particular to Google Reader and that is via shared items. Google allows you to broadcast items in your feed aggregator that you found particularly interesting, insightful, funny or otherwise worth noting. Your friends (as determined by your Gmail contacts) who use Google Reader will see your shared items and vice versa.

The power of shared items is twofold. First, there’s a reasonable probability that the individuals you regularly contact share some common interests with you. But with every Venn Diagram, there are certain interests your friends share that are either of no interest to you or have yet to be discovered by you. In this latter category lies an additional avenue for finding ideas or insightful posts that you may otherwise have never found! Furthermore, like you, your friends are scouring countless blogs but only “sharing” a small fraction of the content they read. This tiny fraction, the cream of the feed crop, has a high probability of containing novel or interesting ideas.

In short, not only do feed aggregators save you time but they can expose you to ideas and knowledge that make you smarter.

Update 3/12/09 10:02 AM: I just learned that you can now comment on shared items within Google Reader. This feature was just released yesterday. Comments are only visible to friends using Google Reader (for now). This is cool in that previously you could only write brief notes on shared items. Google Reader just keeps getting better!

Note — Presently, if you’re looking for a particular Google Reader user’s shared items, you have to find a link to where that user makes his or her shared items public. I make my shared items public at Justin Owings Google Reader Shared Items. You can also find links to the ten most recent posts on the front page of this site.

Grind Skills Reading

If you have questions or comments about this grind skill, please comment below or contact me!

“Almost no one regrets having kids.”


Via a shared Google Reader item from Patri Friedman came this article on EconLog, Parents and Buyer’s Remorse: Lessons from the Lost Newsday Study. The referenced study was done in 1976 on a random sample of Americans “and found that 91% of parents did not have buyer’s remorse.”

Since I am expecting to be a dad in August, this kind of information is good to know. The EconLog post also references a study done in 2003 that indicates that fully 2/3 of non-parents wish they had kids!

This makes complete evolutionary sense—we are biologically programmed to want to reproduce. Beyond it being in our DNA, family is one of the more lasting wealths you can create.

Here’s the relevant data from the post:

What does the Newsday survey say?  First and foremost, the hearsay about the rarity of regret is accurate.  In fact, since some people didn’t answer this question, fully 93% of the actual responses were positive.  Other interesting results:

  • Women had more regret than men: 9% of women had buyer’s remorse, versus just 5% of men.  While many will say this result is obvious, remember that there is virtually no gender gap on “desired family size.”
  • Young (under 25) and old (65+) had the most regret: 15% and 13% respectively.
  • Blacks had much more regret: 19%, versus 6% for whites.
  • Regret sharply falls as income rises.  13% with income under $5000 (in
    1976 dollars) had buyer’s remorse, versus only 4% with incomes of $25k+.
  • Regret sharply falls as education rises.  12% of drop-outs admitted regret, versus 3% of college grads.

Other interesting results: The survey also asked people how many children they would have if they had a “do-over.”  If you read the table, it looks like there is a moderate tendency to want more: Respondents have 2.66 but want 2.84.

OK, so what’s the take-away?

First of all, even though child-free advocates continue to cite the famous Ann Landers survey, it was discredited over thirty years ago. Almost no one regrets having kids.

Second, you might dismiss the Newsday results as mere status quo bias – “Everyone thinks that whatever they did was for the best.” But you probably shouldn’t. The 2003 Gallup study finds that about two-thirds of childless people over 40 wish they had kids. Buyer’s remorse is rare; non-buyer’s remorse is common.

Five tips to lean out from Brad Pilon…r-shredded.html

— Below is my comment that I left on Brad’s blog


Thanks for the post! Quite a response you’ve garnered, which I can only assume is a testament to the truth your words contain! Your #3 comment reminds me of something you have previously said, which I’ll paraphrase as, “Eat to gain muscle and diet to lose fat.”

One method I use to somewhat reliably keep a pulse on my cutting progress is to take on a regular basis a bare chest, mirror snapshot with my cameraphone. Consistency here is important; I usually take mine after working out and before hitting the shower. Consistent lighting and distance from the mirror are also important, but pretty easy to replicate in your own bathroom. This habit (OCD?) is easy to do and hones a dieter’s ability to see where he’s making progress (or not).

Thanks to Eat Stop Eat / intermittent fasting (and heightened carb-awareness) I’ve managed to hack a lot of body fat off while putting on lean mass via kettlebell training, a three month stint with crossfit, and just general weight-lifting. Today, I am noticeably more lean than I was a year ago when I first experimented with fasting even as I only weigh about five pounds less. My weight went from about 182 to 163 and is now around 175. That’s a leaner 175 than 163!

Even so, and as I had alluded to in a prior comment, I have hit a wall on leaning out. I’ve observed firsthand how exercising more has been sine’ed away via larger meal portions, snacking (even on jerky!), cheating, or whatever. I know that with a little practice I can get everything dialed-in and finally see the coveted six-pack. It just takes a little patience. I remind myself that for most of my life (I’m 28) I’ve been soft around the edges, and it’s reasonable to assume that it may take some time and practice to whittle away the fat that’s been hanging on for the past twenty years.

Thanks again!

— And below are the bullet points on Brad Pilon’s 5 tips to get “super shredded:” you’ll have to go to his site for the details! —

  1. Give yourself permission to get “light”.
  2. Give your diet the opportunity to do the work for you.
  3. Avoid using Cardio to Compensate.
  4. Don’t let the Sine Wave get you.
  5. MEASURE, Measure and measure some more.
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